Each careful step and colorful twirl reflect a culture and pride of the woman who 37 years ago brought Dallas the "Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico" dance company.
"I came from a family of six and I remembered how proud that made me feel that somebody was actually noticing me and applauding for something I had done," Martinez said.
Dancers now find that same joy in their newest performance on stage this week at the Winspear Opera House and the Latino Culture Center in Dallas.
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La Gran Fiesta is part of several Cinco De Mayo celebrations around Dallas/Fort Worth. May 5 celebrates Mexico's Battle over the French in the state of Puebla. It is not Mexican Independence Day.
The Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico uses several colorful costume changes to represent different regions in Mexico.
"We performed with crepe paper dresses," Martinez said.
She believes dancing as a little girl while growing up in West Dallas gave her confidence. It was that confidence that helped her make history in 1969 as the first Hispanic city council member in Dallas.
Martinez said she is also the first Hispanic council member of a large U.S. city.
"It [dancing] keeps you grounded in your culture and what you're about and then sharing it with others and then learning about other people's cultures," Martinez said.
Dance shaped Martinez's life and she hopes it helps others find their way, too.
"Dance feeds the soul, it feeds the mind and it fills the body," Martinez said.